Public companies increasingly have to deal with “fake” Twitter accounts created by people who have a bone to pick with the corporation or its brands. BPGlobalPR, for example, is a mock Twitter account using the BP name that has already acquired over 187,000 followers with its satirical spoof tweets on the company’s oil spill clean-up efforts. See http://www.twitter.com/BPglobalpPR) and http://huff.to/aInX2y.
A typical posting reads “Attention young people! Sign up for a BP internship! (Must bring own industrial strength gloves. No pay. No snitchin’.”) And: “Yes, we disabled the alarms on the Deepwater Horizon. Oh, like you’ve never hit the snooze button?”
By way of comparison, BP_America — BP’s official Twitter address — has only 13,500 followers.
Due to the sheer size of the fake account, BP responded by requesting a disclaimer stating that it is an illegitimate account and does not reflect the views of BP. All they got was one tweet by the spoof site: “Not sure what we’ve done wrong, but we’ve been asked to change our name/profile to indicate that we’re ‘fake’.” See: http://bit.ly/bQo9DT.
As of today the Twitter account name remains unchanged, with no disclaimer visible.
Clearly, no company is too big to ignore Twitter or other social media platforms these days. But it is important for companies in crisis to choose their social media battles wisely. In the event of a fake Twitter account, for example, we would suggest the following:
* Check out the number of followers of a particular muckraker who has it out for you.
* If it is not a substantial amount in relation to your company’s consumer base, then don’t lose
sleep over it, but do keep monitoring it in case the criticism and responses intensify.
* Try also to look at it through the eyes of the average consumer. Would they recognize this tweeter as a joke? Or is it a true threat to your company’s reputation?
* In the case of a mock account with a huge base of followers and a lot of activity such as re-tweets or @ references, it may be time to address them appropriately using the company’s official account name. Another option would of course be to strike a deal and join forces with the mock account. They could use their satire to get their frustrations out, and the real company can throw their key message into the mix.
CommCore advises its clients that monitoring online and social media commentary about their company, brand and executives is an essential part of good PR and Crisis Management practices.
But companies need to use a resource like Twitter wisely, and to assess the real impact of online voices who may just be stirring up trouble to get a rise out of big business. Be careful not to react unnecessarily or angrily because that may just make you the bully picking on the little guy.
How would you react to a similar spoof site about your company, or your client’s company?